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While playing tunes at home, you may wonder if cats like music? And if they do, what kind of music do cats like? Though you don't see your kitty tapping their paws to the beat, could they be enjoying the rhythm? Let's see what scientists and musicians have to say about the subject.
What Kind of Music Do Cats Like?
Do cats like music? The proof is in the purr. In the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers concluded that cats do in fact dig music — as long as it's music they like. But what kind of music do cats like, and how do we know? After all, they can't tell us if they prefer a Mozart symphony to a Brahms.
David Teie, an accomplished cellist who's played with performers ranging from the National Symphony Orchestra to Metallica, composes music with tempos that mimic purrs, bird chirps and even nursing. He makes "species-appropriate music," which he fittingly calls Music for Cats. He gave his music to researchers to study and to test his theory that cats — especially young cats and kittens — strongly prefer species-appropriate music to music made for humans.
What does cat-specific music sound like? "In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect," reports The New York Times. "In others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax."
Currently, music made specifically for cats is intended to soothe them, not to get them to dance. As Teie tells The Telegraph, this is partly because speakers "don't make noises which are high-pitched enough" to transmit more lively sounds that cats can hear. Cats are able to hear frequencies up to 64,000 hertz while humans can only hear frequencies between 20 and 20,000 hertz, according to the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (JAHVMA). Put another way, cats will enjoy music that is in the frequency range with similar tempos to those used in cats' natural communication says Megan Savage and Charles Snowdon (psychologists at the University of Wisconsin) in a PBS article.
But how do these scientists determine that a cat actually likes this music? Researchers would notate how much cats would purr, rub against the speakers or orient their head and ears toward the music says Smithsonian Magazine.
Do Cats Like Music at Home?
While cats favor species-specific sounds, this doesn't mean that you should avoid playing human music for them. What's most important is the type of music you choose.
Dr. Susan Wagner, who specializes in music therapy for animals, outlines for JAHVMA a study in which classical, pop and rock music were played for 12 cats during spay procedures. The cats reacted most positively to classical music, followed by pop. Heavy metal, though, raised their heart rate and increased their pupil size; in other words, rock music stressed them out.
As for when to play music for your kitty, any time is a good time. If you choose to leave on your music player or TV while you're out of the house, stick with calming music. Cats of all ages will appreciate soothing sounds, whether classical music, nature sounds or music created specifically for them. Can playing music for kittens in the womb help with development, as it does for human babies? There's no scientific evidence to back it up, but it probably wouldn't hurt.
Curating a Cat Playlist
If you're interested in creating a playlist for your feline friend, take into consideration the sound frequencies cats prefer. Teie uses the cello, piano, flute and harp to create his music — instruments you'll find in the works of Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Puccini. All of these composers frequently appear on curated cat playlists.
If you're not a fan of classical music, look for other styles that appeal to you and your cat, such as New Age music or nature sounds. Kick back, turn up the tunes and relax with your furry pal.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.